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When it comes to improving our writing, we’re constantly looking for writing tips and advices. Authors are a great source, as they have played with this art form for many years. Many of them even paste their tips and advices right into their books.
I admit, as a working mom with two little ones, I don’t have a lot of time to read books—although reading and writing go hand in hand. This is when audiobooks, short articles, and short stories come in handy. One quick-but-informative read I’m currently working on is “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon. In chapter three of his book, Kleon suggests the “So What?” Test. Although he doesn’t necessarily say it’s applicable to writing, I definitely see the use for it.
In this article, we’re going to look at the “So What?” Test and how to use it as you write.
WHAT IS THE “SO WHAT?” TEST?
The “So What?” Test is simply a question you ask yourself as you decide what work and/or progress you choose to showcase to the world. Kleon recommends this test because, in today’s world of technology, once you choose to share something online, you can’t remove it. It’s now public property, and anyone and everyone has access to what you’ve shared. Even if you delete it, it’s now in the cloud data, and anyone can pull it back out to view or repost.
So before you hit the “Share” button on your social media platform, ask yourself, “So what?”
HOW DOES THE TEST APPLY TO WRITING?
“So what?” is a vital question to ask yourself as you work on any piece of writing, such as a big manuscript or small tweet (now known as X). Not only should you ask yourself if your public post or comment is shareable, but what message, theme, or lesson do you want your readers to take away? Is your information educational or entertaining?
In other words, why should your reader care? (“So what?”~shrug)
As you work on your school paper, short story, novel, or memoir, ask yourself “So what?” Why should someone read your writing, and what lesson are you trying to convey to them?
If you can’t answer these questions fully, then go back to your writing and do some revising. You may even need to go back to middle school, high school, or college and revisit your writing classes. Recall how to write a five-paragraph essay–with an introduction paragraph and theme, three bodies of evidence, and a concluding paragraph.
Once you have revised your writing, test it out on an actual reader. Read it to a friend, your partner, parents, or teddy bear. If they can understand the message you’re trying to convey, then share your writing with the world; if they feel it’s not ready, or you don’t feel ready, leave it as a draft and come back to it later.
As you work on a piece of writing, use the “So What?” Test. Ask yourself if your writing is worth sharing (because once shared, you can’t un-share it.) Also ask yourself why your reader should care about what you’ve produced. What lesson, message, or theme do you want your readers to take away? If you can answer these questions with self-assured confidence, then it’s time to share your work with the world. If not, save it for another time.